Fun, Fresh, Fashion
If you are searching for a one of a kind gift then look no further than My Aunt Debbie in downtown Lancaster. My Aunt Debbie offers unique accessories that are not only fun and trendy but are also environmentally friendly.
Nearly all the items sold by My Aunt Debbie are made by reusing old items in a new way. This helps to cut down on overconsumption which so many Americans are prone to. Instead of buying a bag that is fresh off the assembly line and made from brand new material that was most likely acquired through a process destructive to our planet, you can have a uniquely made one that is much more eco-friendly.
Items and accessories sold include jewelry, headbands, bags, wallets and clothing. Each item is handcrafted by artists, many of them local to the Lancaster area.
What Is My Aunt Debbie?
When describing My Aunt Debbie as a brand, owner and founder Debbie Serdy uses the words progressive, trendsetting, encouraging, inspiring and pushing the envelope. It is these words that help create the character that fills the playful downtown shop.
My Aunt Debbie takes up the front corner of the 310 Queen Street shop and has 43 independent artists on display. These independent artists are what set this shop apart. Each artist has their own unique style and set of materials that they center their pieces around. For many of these artists this is the first time they have had their work on display. This is where Debbie steps in. She helps them to get started by making them thing of things from a more business point of view. For instance she gives them tips on packaging and pricing the items.
In terms of deciding which artists fit with the shop and whose merchandise to sell, Debbie bases much of it on personality. She looks for an artist with passion for what they do, which shows her they have the drive to make things happen. It is important to Debbie that they show enthusiasm for what they are doing because they will be spending an extensive amount of time on the projects. Debbie also looks for unique ideas and based on her knowledge of the market chooses artists who she believes will sell.
Artists then have a three month trial to get started and see if their things sell. If things are having trouble selling, Debbie works with the artist to make suggestions based on her knowledge of customers and the current market. The shop offers merchandise from many local Lancaster county artists as well as work from artists as far north as Canada. Many of the artists also have their own accounts on etsy.com, which Debbie deeply encourages.
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Where is My Aunt Debbie?
My Aunt Debbie is located in Lancaster, Pennslyvania. The shop sits at 310 Queen Street near Rachel's Creperie. The shop is also home to Mommalicious, which sells vintage items. My Aunt Debbie and Mommalicious share the space inside the shop . Mommalicious takes up the left side of the store as well as most of the back while My Aunt Debbie is located in the front right corner.
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Artists and Businesses Who Can Be Found At My Aunt Debbie
* Zoe Einbinder: Real Fruit Jewelry http://www.etsy.com/shop/realfruitjewelry
* Donna Welsh: Welsh Studios http://donnawelsh.com/
* Emily Truman: This Ol' Thing http://www.etsy.com/shop/thisolthing
* Jessica Smith: Strip T's http://www.etsy.com/shop/StripTs
* Christine Johnson: Sea Glass and Stone
* Grace Jemison: Saving Grace
* Sarah Ulrich: Little Lumpkin http://www.etsy.com/shop/Lumpkin
* Rachel Vriend
* Pragya Kothari http://www.etsy.com/shop/PragyaK
* Melody Landis: Pocket Full of Darlings
* Tami Hornidge: Pink Andie http://www.etsy.com/shop/pinkandiedesigns
* Jen Hartman: Peachy Tuesday http://www.etsy.com/shop/PeachyTuesday
* Liz Cetkowski: Oh Talking Bird http://www.etsy.com/shop/cetkowski
* Angie Taylor: 1 Odd Bird
* Nicole Duquette: Hello Niccoco http://www.etsy.com/shop/helloniccoco
* Norma Kooi
* Nora Noone
* Nichole Windsor: Polka dot Pendant
* Theresa Grosh: Naptime Inspirations http://www.etsy.com/shop/NaptimeInspirations
* Molly Cahill: Molly Au Contraire http://www.etsy.com/shop/MollyauContraire
* Melissa Blank: Missa Girl
* Menuka Tamang: Menuka Jewelry
* Megan McDonald: M2M Designs
* Margaret High: Di-Voon
* Maggie Mowery
* Maggie French http://www.etsy.com/shop/MaggieFrenchFolkArt
* Marilyn Schnee: Razzmatazzed
* Lindsay Carone: The Chic Pea http://www.etsy.com/shop/thechicpea
* Kathryn Ludlow: Earth Glass
* Julianne Petrillo: Le Petite Fleur
* Kim Merritt: Kimmers
* Kevin Kaltenbaugh: Call Me Squirrel http://www.etsy.com/shop/Callmesquirrel
* Kelley Waller: Tied up Memories http://www.etsy.com/shop/tiedupmemoriesmarket
* Kate Mikusko: Reiki Healing Jewelry
* Kachina Martin: The Howling Ruth
* Janell Almodovar
* Eileen Andrews: October Moon
* Cori Haughery: Fybster http://www.etsy.com/shop/fybster
* Danielle James: Axe to Grind Designs http://www.etsy.com/shop/Momerath10over6
* Carole Frances: Lung Made in Haiti
* Cara Jo Lantz: Luciloops http://www.etsy.com/shop/luciloops
* Alisha Koppert: By Her
* Aidan Giannelli: Bubble Dog http://www.etsy.com/shop/bubbledog
* Bequi Pabon: Unique Creations
* Ana Manzano: Ana Apple http://www.etsy.com/shop/anaapple
* Amanda Gehman: Amanda Made http://www.etsy.com/shop/AmandaMadeJewelry
* Kerry Rohrbach: A Little Sparkle http://www.etsy.com/shop/ALittleSparkle
(D. Serdy, personal communication, September 28 2011)
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Etsy.com is a site where individuals can buy and sell handmade and vintage items as well as art and supplies. It is an excellent place to find one of a kind items and has many categories that include art, bags and purses, bath and beauty, books and magazines, candles, ceramics and pottery, children, clothing, crochet, dolls and miniatures, furniture, geekery, glass, holidays, housewares, jewelry, knitting, music needlecraft, paper goods, patterns, pets, plants and edibles, quilts, supplies, toys, vintage, weddings and woodworking.
This site also offers a few different ways to shop by offering gift ideas, shopping by color, looking through curated lists and the option to buy locally and view nearby sellers. The home page also offers a featured seller profile, recently listed items and recent blog posts.
This site is a great way for someone who is just starting their own handmade business to get their name into the public eye. It is user friendly and is open to anyone to create an account. It helps sellers connect with buyers in a virtual marketplace. Users can create a profile page, similar to Facebook, with a pictures, an about me blurb and they can set up an online shop where customers can purchase their works.
My Aunt Debbie as a Green Business
Not only does My Aunt Debbie allow new artists to get started, it also gives back by being a green business. Almost all of the jewelry and items sold are made out of items that used to be something else. One of the most exciting aspects of looking at all the accessories is figuring out what the items are made out of. There are purses made from old burlap sacks, necklaces make from t-shirt pieces, earrings made from old ceramic plates, bracelets made from old nuts and bolts and even jewelry made from real fruit.
My Aunt Debbie also carries a line of clothing from Haiti. This line is made out of old clothes that were originally sent over from the U.S. in a relief effort. After getting the most wear they could out of them, the people living in Haiti then recreate new clothes from the old ones and send them back to the U.S. for us to wear. This creates an amazing cycle and is similar to other businesses that help those in need when you make a purchase. Take for example the TOMS shoe company. Every time someone purchases a pair of these canvas slip on shoes a pair of shoes is donated to children in need.
How My Aunt Debbie Got Its Start
My Aunt Debbie is still a growing business with an interesting back story. When Debbie Serdy was looking into colleges she did not imagine herself as one day being a business owner, however the path she chose has a roundabout way of connecting to her current life. Debbie was always interested in the arts and had been taking private art lessons beginning at the age of five. Art was something she was good at and enjoyed, however she never thought of making it into a career.
She did not pursue art in college because she believed that college was a place to study something that you did not know much about. She knew quite a bit about art and so she chose to get her degree in environmental conservation. However, after graduating and not being able to find a suitable job, Debbie went back to school for art in Philadelphia. Surprisingly, she did not actually finish her degree but found that she really just enjoyed being around other people that thought and saw the world as she did.
While she was in school she worked like any other poor college student or graduate attempted to get their big break. Debbie began making jewelry in her spare time and wearing it to work. Soon customers began asking her where she was getting her jewelry from and that gave her the idea to sell some of her things to customers. Debbie also started to get involved with the craft show circuit to sell more of her work.
After missing a lot of work to go to craft shows Debbie realized she did not need the restaurant job any longer and began supporting herself through her one passion, art.
One day while in Lancaster, Debbie wondered into Mommalicious, which is home to a vintage clothing and furniture shop. After looking around Debbie met the owner, Alicia Byler, and asked if she would be able to sell her pieces at the store. Alicia agreed and now 310 North Queen Street is home to two unique and innovative shops in one. The name My Aunt Debbie was inspired by Debbie’s three nephews, Michael, Daniel, and Johnny, who inspire her to be imaginative and playful in her designs and in life.
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My Aunt Debbie and the Community
Apart from her work at the shop, Debbie is also an active member of the Lancaster area community and teaches classes at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design located in downtown Lancaster. Debbie is the instructor for a recycled fashion class as well as a recycled jewelry class. This coming winter she will be teaching two one session classes.
The first is entitled “Thinking Outside the Jewelry Box”. It is a one session, non-credit course that is scheduled for Saturday February 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The course begins with a trip to Debbie’s shop, My Aunt Debbie, where students will browse and gather inspiration for their own jewelry or accessory creations. The class will then head to Lancaster Creative Re-use Center located a block for My Aunt Debbie. Here the students will purchase objects or “treasures” as they can be called and take them back to the classroom where they will be able to turn their visions into reality. This course has a fee of $90 and can be registered for through the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design.
The other class Debbie will teaching is geared more toward the business minded community. It is entitled “The Business of Art: How to Start my Handmade Business” and will take place on Monday February 6th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. It is also a one session, non credit course and has a fee of $35. This course will help students to learn the steps of starting a successful business, the importance of creating a plan to build their business and create their brand to set themselves apart from competitors.
Aside from this course, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design offers other classes under the category of “The Business of Art” which is a part of the Lancaster Artists Initiative. The Lancaster Artists Initiative is PCAD’s contribution to support the LancasterARTS by offering continuous series of courses, seminars and events for local area artists as well as art enthusiasts. By making these courses, seminars and events available, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design is helping to reach the LancasterARTS goal of creating and sustaining arts in the city.
PCAD also offers many other classes both for the community and those seeking a degree. There are youth classes available, many non-credit classes and pre-college classes.
The community can also visit Pennsylvania College of Art and Design to view public galleries and other works of art. One of PCAD’s regular attractions is known as The Mosaic Project. This event gives families the chance to meet nationally known artists, take Saturday art classes and have the chance to be awarded non-credit course scholarships. PCAD embraces its location by connecting itself with the surrounding community and making the arts accessible.
Debbie is also working with an art teacher in the Penn Manor school district to obtain a grant to help kids learn about sustainability. The project involves teaching the students how to make tote bags out of old t-shirts to show them how things can be recycled into new and useful things. The students with then sell the tote bags to raise money for the charity of their choice. This project is a great way to teach the students about giving back as well as recycling and reusing and it will help raise awareness in the community about sustainability and the fun of reusing.
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Sustainability: The New Face of Fashion
The efforts to promote sustainability have become increasingly more noticeable over the past few years and can be seen for example with ecofriendly cleaning products, napkins made from recycled paper and now it has moved into the fashion world. My Aunt Debbie has hit the nail on the head with the fun and fresh pieces of clothing that lie beyond the threshold of the shop. The ideas in the shop can now be seen on fashion runways in New York City.
The Green Shows have now made their debut with New York Eco Fashion Week. Different designers take different approaches to their designs, but Gary Harvey who is the previous creative director for Levi Strauss, has taken a similar path as a lot of the My Aunt Debbie Artists.
He uses old trench coats, sweatshirts, scarves, t-shirts, jeans and baseball jackets to make his creations that grace the runway. His aim is to make people rethink how the look at second hand clothing and last season’s styles by fashioning them into beautiful gowns.
A different approach is taken by artists and stylist Nancy Judd. She is the creator of recycle runway which puts more of its focus on creations make from trash or waste. Her goal is slightly different than Gary Harvey’s in that she is using her designs as an educational tool. Through her designs Nancy hopes to education people on the importance of conservation. Her work has become quite well known and one of her pieces is now even part of the Smithsonian Institute’s permanent collection.
Nancy places her designs in busy areas in order to capture the public’s attention and encourage them to start thinking more about the environment in which we live. One of her well known creations is call the Jellyfish dress which is constructed from plastic bags. With this dress Nancy wants the public to think about the effect that plastic waste has on marine life. Not disposing it properly and excess use of plastic and plastic bags is harmful to marine life, which often eat the plastic or get trapped in it and usually die.
With each garment Nancy creates she also creates a message. Another dress, which is an evening gown constructed of crushed glass, is intended to enlighten people to the fact that by recycling glass we can the emissions and consumption of raw materials. Other ensembles challenge us to think about the recycling of building materials, aluminum cans and old electronics. Gary and Nancy take the words reuse literally when they are constructing their masterpieces.
Aside from constructing clothing from old used items, clothing can also be considered eco friendly in the way it is made. Eco friendly and recycling and reusing go hand in hand to concentrate on making the planet a better place to live. Eco friendly items are crafted in ways that are good or at least better for the environment.
For example organic cotton has become a trend and is grown without the use of pesticides which is better for the environment. Organics are grown in a more natural way without the interference of chemicals which is healthier for the soil and the planet. The Organic Consumers Association is a good resource for discovering companies in your local area along with general information about going organic.
My Aunt Debbie is on the list as well as several other businesses that are involved in fair trade, holistic wellness, and vegan products. To find out more feel free to visit their website at http://www.organicconsumers.org/.
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DIY: Reusable Fashion
Turn Old Jeans Into a New Purse
Interesting in trying some clothing recycling yourself? Here are the steps to turn that old pair of jeans into a cute new and useful purse!
Before you get started you will need the following:
* A pair of jeans -Use jeans that you don’t mind cutting up. The condition of the legs doesn’t matter, but the backside and front should be in good condition. Make sure your jeans have belt loops. Also make sure that the pockets on the jeans do not have holes that way they can later be used as outside pockets on your purse.
* A cute belt- Your purse will be ‘wearing’ this belt.
* Sewing needle and thread
* (Optional)Sewing Machine
* Measuring Tape
Once you have those items is time to get started!
Lay the jeans out on the floor or on a table, backside up, so you are looking at the back pockets. You will be cutting the legs off, right where they meet the crotch. Reach into the front pockets and pull them inside out so that you don't accidentally cut them.
For a straight-bottomed purse, start at one side and cut all the way across in a straight line. To make a straight line, you may have to cut off a bit of the crotch seam. Be careful not to cut into the back pockets so you can use them as outside pockets on the purse.
To make a purse that is shaped like a ‘V’ on the bottom, start at the crotch and cut an upward diagonal line to the leg seam. Repeat on the other side.
Once your jeans are cut, you can stitch up the bottom.
Now that you have just the butt of the jeans left, you’ll need to sew up the bottom to make a purse shape. Break out the needle and thread or sewing machine. Start sewing with medium sized stitches (about 1/8” long) all the way across.
f you are using a sewing machine, be careful of sewing through the seams. Thick seams can break your needle, so go slow or hand-crank these parts. Be sure to use a thick needle that is intended for use on denim to avoid breaks.
Tie off the threads to prevent your new seam from unraveling.
Now you are all set to make a handle.
First lace the belt through the belt loops. Buckle it as though you would if you were wearing it. To make a handle, you can use strips from the jeans legs.
For a handbag handle, cut two strips that are 2” wide by 20” long. For a shoulder bag handle, use one strip of 2” wide by 40” long denim. Cut the strips to the desired length and then attach them to the bag by tying them onto the belt on either side.
You can customize your bag in a lot of ways. Let’s look at some style tips.
The best part about this bag is the versatility of the look.
* Have fun with the denim. Try putting on an iron-on patch or add an array of pins and buttons.
* Change up the belt to renew your bag. Try belts with large or jeweled belt buckles. You can change your belt each season to match color trends. Even use a neck tie belt.
* Switch up the handle with one of your favorite scarves. Thin, decorative scarves can be tied onto each side. Thicker, crocheted winter scarves can be safety pinned.
* Use the extra leg material to make patches or different length handles.
These instructions along with many other how-tos can be found at http://diyfashion.about.com/od/mendingandalterations/ss/BootyBag.htm
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Turn Old Paper Into a Fun and Funky New Bracelet
Looking for more fun ways to recycle and be creative? You can use lots of different materials to make jewelry. Here are the steps to create cute bracelets from all different kinds of paper!
Turn junk mail, magazines, brochures, last year's calendars, and gift wrapping paper into cool beads that may be used for bracelets or necklaces.
Before taking that stack of old magazines to the recycle bin, tear out a few pages with your favorite colors...with a few quick cuts, one magazine page yields enough beads for 3 bracelets!
You can wear your finished product in about 1 hour!
For one recycled paper, glass and silver bead bracelet you will need:
-1 page from an old magazine, junk mail, calendar, brochure or a piece of gift wrapping paper- suggest choosing a colors you enjoy and one with a glossy finish. Don't worry about words on the page!
-A paper cutter with marked measurements or an utility/ exacto knife and ruler
-A glue stick
-Clear nail polish and a small piece of styrofoam (optional, see Step 4)
-Elastic beading cord (about 9-10")
-Leftover silver and glass beads
Once you have all your materials gathered you can begin making your bracelet:
-Tear or cut the page from the magazine (calendar, brochure, wrapping paper, etc.) that you have selected.
-Using a paper cutter or a utility knife, begin cutting the page into strips. Starting at either the bottom or the top of the page, cut the page into 1/2" strips. (The strips I typically use are approx. 1/2" by ~7-8" long.) You may cut the entire page into strips or cut at least four for the bracelet.
-Next, cut each strip in half on the diagonal. To make one mixed bead bracelet, I typically use 8 diagonally cut "triangle" shaped pieces of paper.
-Organize a work space with the 8 diagonal paper strips, several toothpicks, a glue stick and some clear nail polish.
-Take a toothpick and one paper strip. Roll the wide end of the paper strip completely around the toothpick one rotation. Next, take the glue stick and quickly cover the remaining paper surface with glue. I usually quickly run the glue stick over the paper twice. You may need to wipe any excess glue from your hands if they get too sticky!
-Now it is time to completely and tightly roll the paper strip around the toothpick. Smooth the tip/end of the paper strip in place. Next, slip the paper "bead" off the toothpick. It should slide off easily since the glue was not applied to the section of the paper that directly touches the toothpick.
Note: This opening made by the toothpick will provide the space to string your beads onto the bracelet cord.
This next step is optional...
I prefer to add a gloss coating to the beads. It seems to harden/ cure the paper and helps the bead to be more water-resistant (ex. if water splashes onto the bracelet when washing your hands---would not recommend wearing the bracelet while bathing---even if you do seal with the nail polish!) You decide if you want to include this step...
-Select a finished/glued bead. Place upon a toothpick and "polish" with the clear nail polish. The polish I use dries in less than 5 minutes. I stick a row of the toothpicks containing the polished beads in a piece of Styrofoam so they may dry without touching the table top or each other.
-After the beads are dry, inspect each one and use the cuticle scissors to trim away any tiny paper tags that are not completely glued/ sealed in place.
-Organize your beads into a "stringing" order. I usually use 8 recycled paper beads mix in a few leftover silver and glass beads for color and variety.
-Cut the beading cord in a 9-10" piece. I like to triple knot the cord- so I add in a little extra cord to make sure there is enough to tie and then trim the excess. If you are making a bracelet for a child or smaller wrist, adjust the size accordingly.
-String the beads onto the cord, knot the two ends together and trim the excess cord.
And now you have a completed bracelet made of recycled material!
These instructions along with other craft ideas for using recycled items can be found at http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-RECYCLED-PAPER-BEAD-Bracelet/?ALLSTEPS
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One of the funky displays that occupy My Aunt Debbie. These earrings are attached to large vintae playing cards that are being reused as packaging and presentation for the earrings.
Old zippers make up this fun and alternative piece. The wood toggle helps it stay on and keep your neck nice and warm.
Bags like these are abundant at My Aunt Debbie. Some are made from old seed bags while others are made from old jeans as shown here. Many of the bags are very roomy and have the desired worn look.
Necklace like these are more than meets they eye. Surprisinly they are made out of old t-shirts! The brand is called Strip-Ts which is just one of the many playful names the artists give their products.
Headbands and hair pieces with colorful patterns and expressive designs are excellent for holding hair and making a bold statement.
Dresses and tops are among the items for sale. This particular dress is entirely crocheted by the artist. The other items that can be seen are pieces of clothing that have been created with many different pieces of clothing and fabric.
The collar on this dress and pocket detailing were added to give this dress color and texture.
These earrings are made from old pieces of wire and bone!
This artist was inspired by her kitchen to create these unique pieces of jewelry. They look good enough to eat! (They are however not edible.)
This close up of a prom dress shows the detailed stitching and buttons that were added from other prom dresses to the original dress.
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Photos Courtesy of My Aunt Debbie, Taken by Tess Black